Shanthi the Elephant Died Too Young: Tell the National Zoo to Send Survivors to a Sanctuary

Shanthi and Ambika, two Asian elephants who both died at the National Zoo.

Tragically, another elephant life was cut short at the National Zoo in June, when middle-aged Asian elephant Shanthi was euthanized. Don’t let it happen again! Demand the National Zoo retire all its suffering elephants to a sanctuary and permanently close its exhibit!

Shanthi, a female Asian elephant, was only around 45 years old when she was killed by the National Zoo due to osteoarthritis, a condition which had afflicted her for decades. Like many captive elephants, Shanthi was literally crippled by life in a cage.

Arthritis and foot disease are the leading causes of death for elephants in captivity… they are caused entirely by lack of natural space.

Elephants held captive in zoos should live far longer in captivity than in the wild, where they must contend with acquiring food and water, while avoiding predators and poachers. But for all the time and treatment spent on its captive elephants, these animals die young; elephants in zoos can’t reproduce fast enough to keep up with their death rate.

Shanthi was euthanized far before her time, even for a captive elephant. Her own cell mate, Ambika, was killed by the National Zoo earlier this year at the age of around 72 years old. Sadly, Ambika was an exception to captive populations.

In the wild, elephants can live well into their seventies. Elephants are entirely unsuited and drastically affected by captivity which inflicts diseases borne out of a basic lack of exercise and other captivity-caused factors. Even with all the best medicine and treatment captivity can offer, Shanthi was arguably cut down in the middle of her life.

We'll never know how long either of these individuals would have lived beyond the confines of captivity. However, it’s very likely these elephants — and those who remain at the Zoo — would fare much better at an accredited sanctuary.

What YOU Can Do — TODAY:



Contact the National Zoo by phone and email, asking that the remaining elephants be sent to a sanctuary and that the elephant exhibit be shut down.

1) Call the National Zoo and leave a message: 202-633-4888

Politely say: With the untimely death of Shanthi at your zoo, I hope you will consider shutting down your elephant exhibit and send the remaining individuals to sanctuaries where they can live out their lives in relative peace and quiet.

2) Send our letter to Dr. Brandie Smith, Deputy Director of the National Zoo, urging her to send the remaining five elephants in its care to an accredited sanctuary.


Submit our alert to immediately deliver your comments to:


  • Brandie Smith, Ph.D. — Deputy Director of Smithsonian’s National Zoo


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Please retire your remaining elephants and shut down the exhibit

Dear [Decision Maker],

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]


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